CUBAN MUSIC is lively, energetic, and invigorating, but also soft, sensual, and emotional. The music makes listeners want to dance and touches the deepest parts of the soul. Indeed, Cubans carry music in their blood. The uniqueness of Cuban music lies in the varying degrees in which African and European traditions have come together, offering a distinct blend of the two.
Cuban music is characterized by the cinquillo cubano, a group of syncopated notes that form a regular beat that alternate with another one that is not syncopated; the first is considered strong, and the latter weak. The cinquillo is apparently of African origins and resembles the rhythms of sacred rituals.
The first Cuban composition has been attributed to Teodora Ginés who, with her sister Micaela Ginés, migrated from the Dominican Republic to Santiago de Cuba toward the end of the sixteenth century. There she was part of a musical group made up of her sister, the Spaniards Pascual de Ochoa and Pedro Almanza, and the Portuguese Jácome Viceira. Teodora Ginés was famous for her songs. In 1562 she composed “Son de la Ma’ Teodora” (The Ma’ Teodora Son), a question-and-answer song and a single-line refrain,that combined Spanish lyrics and African rhythm. The tres, a Cuban guitar with three pairs of strings, dates to this period. It has been suggested that the